Owe no man

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Rom13:8

Fortunately, we are not required to confess men’s confessions, creeds, doctrines, membership requirements, solas, tulips, theologies, catechisms, lists, theologians or Churchmen.

Speaking for myself, “i believe the scriptures”. I confess only Christ.

We owe no man a confession of creeds, confessions, doctrines, theologies or theological camp allegiances. We only owe love.

Public Reading of the Bible

Project Ezra is an outreach ministry dedicated to the public reading of the Bible. Believers simply present the Word of God by reading it aloud in a public place where there are people gathered or walking by. This is a wonderful ministry because it gives glory to God through the public exaltation of Christ and the proclamation of God’s Word. This Bible reading often provides the reader with an opportunity to then preach the Gospel to groups (crowds) in the public venue, or to share the Gospel one on one with people who stop to listen and then ask questions.

On Saturday God gave me the opportunity to read Isaiah 53 to ten teens and homeless older people hanging out downtown, which led to opportunity to share the attributes of God, the Law and the Gospel of Grace, and also answer questions regarding the Gospel, the Deity of Christ and the Atonement. One teen asked me, “What is sin?” Others asked about doing “religion”, such as “being a good Catholic”, in order to be justified. Later five more teens joined the group and asked what we were talking about. “We’re talking about how we can have our sins forgiven.” They listened and asked questions for almost an hour. I was overjoyed to see their humble attitude as realization of sin appeared on their faces, and as they heard of the hope of the Grace of God in Christ.

Here is a video of a sister reading a Psalm in public, which was followed by Gospel preaching by another believer. This is an evangelism ministry that can be done alone or with other brothers and sisters. Pray first for His power and courage before you go and ask the Lord to lead you to the people He wants to hear the Word of God. May God be glorified as His Word accomplishes what He desires.

The Proud and the Humble, pt. deux

At the dog park this week there was another stark example of the proud and the humble. It was another one of those interactions which makes me seriously consider carrying around a small digital recorder so I can better remember the details of these conversations.

So I was talking with this man for quite a while on the subject of idolatry. He brought up the subject himself and was criticizing that segment of American society which worships sports as “god”. Agreeing with him, (that sports is an American idol) I used that as my opportunity to speak to him on the subject of spiritual things and decided to bring up all the other things people worship, and all the rest of the Law. But after identifying as a Humanist, he responded to God’s Word by declaring his good deeds and self-righteousness. He then went on a rage about how he should not have to thank God (if there was one) for anything; for “what has He done for me lately?” He accused God of being responsible for evil in the world, and accused Him of not doing right (or making this messed up world right). He praised the superiority and independence of Humanity, then lifted his fist high in the air, and shook his fist at God in defiance, loudly yelling his curses against God.

Towards the end, another man began listening and joined the conversation. He also witnessed to the Humanist. This man was a brother in Christ, and not only did he proclaim the truth that God is Creator, Judge and Savior, but he also, with great love and gentleness of spirit, declared his gratitude to God for salvation, and for His goodness, even through severe and painful life trials. This man publicly blessed the Lord with thanksgiving.

The thing I found so wonderfully amazing was that this brother that proclaimed his gratitude to God, did not begin hearing the conversation until after the first man completed his diatribe of hateful ingratitude against God. Thus they both demonstrated who they were before God: one demonstrating the text of Romans 1:18-25, and the other demonstrating every scripture about believers giving thanks to God for all His blessings, especially salvation of sinful men, by His grace.

Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations. Ps.100:4-5.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (surpassing grace!) 2Cor.9:15.

His Mouth was Stopped

thelawphotoAfter our museum visit we headed to a large playground at Golden Gate Park. While the kids climbed and explored, I planted myself on a picnic table to rest and people watch. A young man walked across the grass and came up to where I was. We started talking. He was 24, a recent college graduate and had just moved here from SoCal. He talked about his plans for an exciting, fulfilling and successful life. I brought up the issue of what comes after that, referring to the day of judgment. We had a long, in depth conversation that involved apologetics, testimony, the Law and the Gospel.

“I have my own moral standards”, he began as he defended himself. He thought he was a good person. Then he excused himself by saying that he has his own belief system, recently acquired through the reading of Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth. Newly enlightened in the New Spirituality, he tried to make me doubt my faith. You could feel the unseen spiritual conflict as he tried to destroy my faith in Jesus. I turned the main issue to his future appointment before God, the character attributes of God, the breaking of God’s Law, our accountability to God, and God’s righteous justice against sin. Using scripture.

It was amazing. As he listened concerning the Law and God’s perfect character, his mouth shut, and he became silent, looking down. Minutes before he was proud and defending himself. Now he was humbled and quiet while he listened about the gift and grace of God in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Rom.3:19-20.

Communicating the Gospel

I think this is my current favorite Paul Washer message about the Gospel. Right on and to the point regarding communicating the gospel. Really good stuff. Here’s a few quotes.

“There’s no such thing as a motivational speaker in Jesus name. Either be a preacher or be nothing.”

“Men are changed through the communication of truth- not methodologies.”

Audio: The Gospel of our Salvation, Page 3 from Journey into the Gospel.

Go For It: Personal Witnessing

So you have come to understand that “witnessing” is not just for the street preachers, pastors, missionaries and those with the “gift of evangelism”, but for every believer. And now you are ready to get started! How do you take that first step?

Witnessing, also known as “personal evangelism” is both something that you really can’t help doing, as well as something that can be learned, like a skill. You can spend the rest of your life learning “how”, even as you go through your life witnessing.

My earliest memory of witnessing was immediately after God revealed Himself to me, saved me and gave me faith to believe. I went into the kitchen and told my mom that something happened to me and I now knew (believed) that “it’s all about Jesus”. I also remember cutting nature pictures out of my National Geographic magazines and pasting them in scrapbook pages. I wrote Bible verses in calligraphy, on each picture page, and gave it as a gift to someone. Later in college, other believers taught me “how to share my faith”, and I learned a lot by watching them in action.

Witnessing is anything you do with words, to communicate truth about the Lord our God, and what He did to save men through Jesus. That leaves a lot of room for creativity.

There’s a million things we can say on this topic; indeed there are loads of books written on “how to do evangelism”. Here I’ll just offer a few ideas that hopefully will help you to get started on your new adventure!

The most important thing is to know what the gospel is. Here’s a link with articles that talk about the gospel. The gospel is not about our church, or having our best life now, becoming wealthy, finding our purpose, feeling better about ourselves, promoting morality, taking the nation back for God, or working for world peace and harmony. It’s very important that we know the gospel well, so we can faithfully share it.

Pray, confess your sins, pray for opportunities, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

By faith, initiate a conversation with someone. Perhaps God will have the other person initiate the conversation.

Be respectful, friendly, joyful, honest and loving. Relate to the person you are talking to. Be light, be salty. Be caring.

Ask questions. Get them to reflect. What do they think about something? What are their answers to certain problems? After asking, listen to their answers. This is a good way to start conversations.

Take the conversation from the natural realm to the spiritual. People bring up topics. You can use that natural topic that they are interested in, to turn the subject from that, to thinking about spiritual things that they need to consider. Jesus did this all the time. For example, more than once I’ve been asked how we can live in light of the terrifying prospect of world war. I used that truly scary scenario to gently bring up something far scarier than that: Judgment day before a perfect, righteous, just and holy God. These people never considered this “date with just fate” and we were able to then talk about the reality our sin, the justice of God, and the remedy that God graciously provided for our eternal “safety”: Jesus Christ.

Use your testimony and talk about yourself; what God has shown you; what you have learned from God.

Use words that can be understood by your hearers, without changing the message. This is good contextualization. Bad contextualization is when you change the message, and end up with a “different gospel” or a “different Jesus”, just to be relevant. You can be relevant without compromising Biblical truth.

You can be relational and clear at the same time. Again, this is about choosing to compromise or not. We must not be ashamed of the gospel. God will give us courage to tell it clearly.

Gently and lovingly address the person’s conscience so they can become aware of, or consider, their standing (guilt) before God. The Moral Law- the 10 Commandments, help do this. Tell of the attributes of God. Tell of man’s sinful condition. Share the law with the proud, and the grace of Christ crucified for sins, with the humble. When God makes someone born from above, they will have repentance from sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus. Remember, you are sowing seeds of the gospel, so you may not see what will become of that seed. You just have to trust God.

Jesus talked about different kinds of soil. A person’s heart may be very hard. Sometimes the Law will plow up the soil, and make it ready for the seed of the gospel. You have to test how “open” people seem. Another person’s heart may stay hard, defensive and proud even after hearing the Law; they may tell you off, tell you to shut up and get lost. This person is “not open”, so you know that you are most likely done there, at least for now. You can move on. Look for the open, humble, soft soil person; God is preparing their heart to hear the gospel.

Remember that you do not achieve the salvation of a person; salvation is only of the Lord. But He is pleased to save people through the foolishness of the message preached. Your job is to tell the message, and God will save those who believe, by His grace.

…but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses…. Acts 1:8.

Outreach in The City

We had a great week up in The City. Started the week in worship with Park Presidio Bible church on 10th Ave. in the morning, and Casa de Refugio Iglesia on Market St. in the afternoon. It was a joy to sing in Spanish, and a young woman even came and translated the whole sermon. The neat thing was that the message from both churches was about being a bold witness of the gospel, from different passages in the book of Acts. Both churches also preached against false teaching, and also declared the lateness of the hour, prophetically speaking. Very different churches, same biblical messages!

Monday, we spent the day on Fisherman’s Wharf. Tuesday, we were on Telegraph and Haste in Berkeley and later we hung out on 16th and Mission. Wednesday we were at Haight & Ashbury/Masonic and our dear brothers Paul Kaiser and the young man he is discipling, Ryan, came down to join us. That night we went down to Haight & Stanyan. Thursday we went to Fisherman’s Wharf again and Friday we were at Berkeley again, but up on the campus at Sproul plaza. Saturday we spent all day at UN Plaza, then we went out to Chinese for dinner before heading home on BART.

Everybody ministered the gospel in slightly different styles, of course. Some gave out printed or audio gospel material, some played music and sang, some preached open air, some read passages of scripture from the Bible, but mostly, we engaged people in dozens of one on one conversations where the law and the gospel were boldly, respectfully and joyfully shared.

Of course I have some conversations I’d love to tell you about, and photos to upload, but first I think I’ll get some sleep. Until then, here’s some video from our day working with Paul on Haight & Ashbury. (Warning: videos are rated R for language.)

In this video, Jessi is videotaping while Ryan talks to Nick Pt.1. A few feet away in the background, I’m talking to Nick’s friend Greg.

In this video, Paul is doing some old fashioned street preaching & apologetics; engaging hecklers, mockers and those with genuine questions in conversation as the opportunity arises.

In this video, here is more of Paul engaging a man with the truth of God’s Word.

In this video, Ryan is preaching his heart out while I videotape. The enemy sure did not like his preaching. There was a bit of spiritual reaction to the Truth. His message turned out to be 90% law and 10% grace due to the pride and hard hearts of the hearers. Regardless of the response of people, seeds are sown, and God is always glorified in the proclamation of the gospel and the exalting of Christ.

Don’t be discouraged by these videos! The wind of God’s Spirit blows where it wills, and nothing is too hard for the Lord. Here is a timely and encouraging reminder of this great truth.

Audio: Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord? by John Piper

What is going on in the minds of the people in these videos as well as those we witness to at work, on the street or at the family reunion picnic? This message teaches us the theological truth from Romans 1 about how people already know God exists, that God’s standards exist and that their sinful acts deserve death. Listen to find out the encouraging way this truth helps us in our witnessing to them, so we can have courage and bold confidence in our gospel sharing.

Audio: Doing and Endorsing Evil, by John Piper

Here is Ryan and Nick, Pt.2

Ryan talks with Nick, with Paul and Jessi also contributing. Here is the summary from Paul Kaiser:

“Bro. Ryan continues to reason with Nick and we begin to clearly see what it is that Nick holds so dear. He loves his sin and is blinded by his own pride. Please pray that God will be merciful and grant Nick repentance.”

Here is Paul Kaiser’s report on The Reformed Evangelist: The Haight-Ashbury Experience.

The Sacrifice Lamb

Why are Christians celebrating “Easter” this weekend when Jesus actually died and was resurrected at Passover time, which this year is a month away on April 20? It’s because the Jewish calendar (and thus Passover) is on the lunar cycle, and the Roman calendar (and thus Easter) is on the solar cycle. “Easter” is really a Roman/pagan celebration.

Easter is the name of Ishtar/Astarte/Eostre, the “goddess” of the ancient world, who also goes by a handful of other names. At some point in the past, someone changed the Christian calendar to coincide with Roman paganism (now who could that be?) and the focus is back on some pagan fertility goddess rather than on Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

But no matter. We know Jesus laid down His life at Passover, as the sacrifice Lamb, and He took it up again when He rose from the dead. He has now written His Word on our hearts, and we celebrate his death and resurrection every week, and every day.

Here is a beautiful song (an oldie) which lifts up Jesus and His sacrifice for us. I just love the words in this song. I first heard this on Sounds of Shalom on live365.com.

The Sacrifice Lamb, by Joel Chernoff

Have you ever heard, Messiah has come?
It says in His Word, to cleanse everyone
Atonement He made, iniquity bore
That we can find life, in Him evermore

The sacrifice Lamb, has been slain
His blood on the altar, a stain
To wipe away guilt and pain, to bring hope eternal
Salvation has come, to the world
Messiah, the one, for the world, Yeshua is He

The prophets of Old, Speak much of Messiah
His death is foretold, the purpose is clear
Isaiah did say, ‘twas for an atonement
To give us a way, that leads not to death (chorus)

So brothers of mine, look not to yourselves
For we are but one, we all need His help
We’ve broken the Law, but He paid our debt
That we can find life, by Yeshua’s death

The sacrifice Lamb, has been slain
His blood on the altar, a stain
To wipe away guilt and pain, to bring hope eternal
So final atonement has come and brought us new hope by God’s Son, if you believe…in your heart…Yeshua you’ll know

Witnessing to Jews

When witnessing to Jewish people, I’ll go over the moral Law and speak of the holiness, righteousness and justice (and judgment) of God as well as the mercy and salvation of God, all from Old Testament passages. I’ll share some Messianic passages in the Old Testament, especially from Psalms and Isaiah. I just share the passages and ask the person to consider Who the passage is really talking about. I’ll go ahead and tell them that Yeshua is the One who has fulfilled all these prophecies. Aside from proclaiming God’s Word, I think that love, compassion and prayer for God’s mercy is most important.

Here is some instruction from John Piper on witnessing to Jewish people.

You could also read parts of their scriptures that talk about the need for forgiveness and the fact that a Messiah is coming who will bear the sins of his people, and see if they would be open to that interpretation. Then talk about the gospel in relationship to those prophesies.

Stress over and over again that when we meet God he is going to be absolutely righteous and absolutely just, and our good deeds will never suffice to save us from judgment: “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Then ask them, “What is that forgiveness based on? Why would there have been a whole series of animal sacrifices if no sacrifice were necessary for the forgiveness of sins. And if sacrifice is necessary for the forgiveness of sins, whose sacrifice can cover all of my sins?”

Answer: “Christ bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

So just tell the story over and over again, as often as they’ll listen.

Should you stop sharing the Scriptures if it offends them?

Absolutely not. If they say, “Be quiet and don’t talk to me anymore,” then you should probably stop talking to them. But if they are just offended then you should keep on seeking to speak with them in a way that would be least offensive. You would not do that by changing the content of your message but by having a demeanor that communicates as much love as possible.

Some people think that we don’t need to evangelize Jews because they will still be saved by the old covenant. Is that true?

No. The notion that we don’t need to evangelize Jews because there remain two distinct covenants—a Jewish covenant and a Christian covenant—is simply unbiblical. The New Testament pictures the old covenant as coming to its climax and consummation in Jesus Christ.

Read the whole interview here at Desiring God.